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NZ Chatham Islands Information

Resting in the waters east of Christchurch, the Chatham Islands consist of about ten islands, only two of which, Chatham and Pitt, are inhabited. The rest of the islands were used at various times for farming and grazing and now have only limited access. Like so many of the islands around New Zealand, the fragile environments were severely damaged and are now protected by the department of conservation. The main island is softly hilly land, dotted with inlets and lagoons; in fact, the Te Whanga Lagoon takes up 1/5th of Chatham Island. The islands were named for William Broughton’s 1791 voyage on the HMS Chatham, claiming the islands as a part of the British Empire.

Less than 800 people live on the two main islands, so while there are a variety of activities available, the area is hardly over-commercialized. Waitangi is the largest settlement in the area with approximately 200 people. There is one main store, one café, and one waterfront hotel that doubles as a bar. There is only one bank to be found on the island but a visit here should be spent outdoors. Great weather and beautiful landscapes ensure endless options to explore the area. Bird watching, fishing, kite-surfing, scenic trails and scuba diving are all available to the visitor to the Chathams.

The first inhabitants of the islands may have come either from the Polynesian Islands north of the Chathams or they may have been Maori, from the main part of New Zealand. The descendents of the first settlers were called the Moriori and whatever their roots, they developed a unique culture in the Chatham Islands. They lived as peaceful hunter-gatherers on the island with a population of roughly 2000 until European settlers and Maori whalers/traders brought diseases that almost completely wiped out the people.

On Chatham Island, the J.M. Barker National Historic reserve, Hapupu, is one of only two national historic reserves in all on New Zealand. The Reserve was established in order to preserve the Morior rakau momori, carvings made into the sides of kopi trees for reasons of emotional and spiritual significance. The carvings were once far more abundant in the area, but as it was re-settled more and more of the ancient engravings were destroyed. The few still in the Reserve are among the only remaining signs from the almost lost Moriori culture. The Reserve is accessible by car and there are several nature trails leading into the reserve to the locations of the carvings.

While the Chatham Islands are about as remote as a place can be, regular air service makes this end of the world get away less than two hours from Christchurch. Now, despite the obscurity of its location, it is connected by daily flights to the rest of New Zealand.

One peculiarity of the islands resting on 180 degrees longitude is that they have their own time zone, observing it 45 minutes ahead of New Zealand time due to its location in relationship to the International Date Line.


NZ Chatham Islands references

Chatham Islands Council :: Welcome
Chatham Islands consist of a group of ten islands. The Chatham Islands Council
is a Unitary Council.


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